What factors about the group leader and/or group would you expect to have a big effect on health and growth? Stop and think about that for a minute. The leader's prep time? Appropriate spiritual gifts like teaching or exhortation? Curriculum or meeting format?
Here's the first surprising result. The length of time a small group leader spends preparing the study has no correlation with growth of the group. None. Whether they spend no time whatsoever preparing, or several hours. The single biggest correlation? The prayer life of the leader(s) and whether they actually prayed for the group and their meetings. In some ways that's a 'duh' response, but at the same time profound - the key factor that correlates with whether a group grows is one the group members never even see!
A second surprising result about the small group leader. There was no correlation between personality types and small group growth (extrovert, introvert), nor spiritual gifts, nor age or gender or anything else outside the leader's control. Everything that mattered was a behavior, and there were only a few key factors. Here are some quotes from Jim Egli in his interview with Rick Howerton.
"We probed and looked at hundreds of variables but we found out there are just four key things—pray, reach, care and empower. Leaders need to connect with God. Group members need to reach out to others beyond their group and love each other. Leaders need to give ministry away and call others into leadership. It’s not complicated."
"It jarred my leadership paradigm. It meant that anyone that could love God and others could lead successfully. All of a sudden, I didn’t have to look for people who had a certain disposition or a certain personality type or gifting. I just had to look for people who were open to God and wanting to move forward with him."
"When a leader connects to God and group members practically love one another and others, people are drawn to the group and into relationship with Jesus."Simple, but profound, with significant implications for small group ministry. I think I might have to pick up a copy of 'Small Groups, Big Impact.' :)